This is why you can’t sleep in a new bed

Feel groggy when you sleep in a new place for the first time? It’s because your brain switches into “dolphin mode”.

21st April 2016
This is why you can’t sleep in a new bed (iStock)

Many of us know from our own painful experience that after the first night sleeping in a new place we feel more like needing MORE rest instead of being as fresh as daisy.

This phenomenon is even scientifically known as the first-night effect and in sleep labs the data of the first night usually isn’t used for the analysis. The question is why?

On the look out

In a study published in Current Biology, researchers at Brown University imaged the brains of people sleeping for the first time in a new place and compared the activity of the two hemispheres. The astonishing discovery was that the left hemisphere was more awake on the first night, essentially keeping watch, and the effect disappeared from the second night on.

"We know that marine animals and some birds show unihemispheric sleep, one awake and the other asleep," says Yuka Sasaki of Brown University. “Our brains may have a miniature system of what whales and dolphins have.”

Can we outsmart our brains?

If you want to get a good night’s sleep the scientists suggest that you take your own pillow with you when you sleep away or stay in hotels that look similar to each other. Training can also make the difference.

"Human's brains are very flexible," says Sasaki. "Thus, people who often are in new places may not necessarily have poor sleep on a regular basis."

Now if you’ll excuse us, it’s about time for a nap.

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